We’ve all heard the fable that leaving your television on for extended periods can cause damage to your device. Thirty years ago, that was undoubtedly true.
With the plasma, LED, or LCD televisions of today, it is safe to leave your TV on all the time. However, depending on the television type, you may need to keep your TV screen completely black or revolving images to avoid burn-ins. And sometimes, leaving your TV on can cause a diminished life cycle.
In this article, we’ll look at what you must know about leaving your TV on all the time. We will discuss both plasmas and LCD televisions, the two most common types of televisions used today.
Table of Contents
How Long Can You Leave a TV On?
How long you can leave your television on depends on the type of television you use. There are four common types of television screens.
Most LED, LCD, OLED, and plasma screen televisions can run all the time without damaging your machine. However, doing so will shorten the life of your television.
All televisions have a preset life cycle measured in hours used. Once you reach these hours, your TV mechanics will start to operate at half-life, meaning your picture won’t be as bright.
Plasma televisions used to be the most popular type of screen for the best picture. However, production ended for plasmas in 2015.
Plasma screens have hundreds of gas-filled cells covered by sheets of glass. These cells are mini fluorescent tubes that produce ultraviolet light.
They display as green, red, or blue subpixels. It takes three of these subpixels to produce one pixel. Pixels are what make an image.
When your television is off, the cells are flat, so there’s no image displayed. Once electricity runs through, the cells collide to display photons of light.
A phosphor material turns the photons into a picture. When the ions stay frozen on one image, the phosphor intensity slowly degrades unevenly.
LCD (liquid crystal display) televisions quickly replaced plasma screens as the best television model. But once LED TVs emerged, they dropped in popularity.
LCD televisions don’t use plasma. Instead, they have Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps (CCFL) behind the screen. These lights shine through liquid crystals to produce colors.
CCFLs slowly degrade over time and use, losing their intensity to create a bright image.
LED or Light Emitting Diode televisions are the most popular type of television. LED TVs produce better images with brighter pictures.
Although there is a great picture, LED televisions generally do not have high-quality speakers due to their thin design. But LED devices do have high energy efficiency, so they quickly make up for the high price.
Most LED televisions are edge-lit, meaning there are LEDs around the edges of the screen. These televisions can be super thin.
Other LED TVs are back-lit, meaning the LEDs run along the back of the screen. These models have slightly better light consistency, but they aren’t as thin as back-lit models.
QLED is another form of LED television designed to compete with OLED models. A QLED TV has the same fundamentals as a regular LED screen.
But these models have a quantum dot layer, which produced the brightest and most comprehensive range of true colors. The pixels in a QLED are not individually lit, which means less contrast for black color, but you do get dynamic coloring.
OLED is the newest type of television and is an upgrade to the standard LED. These offer the clearest picture out of all television types.
OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. All OLED televisions are 4K Ultra HD or 8k Ultra HD. For the record, HD stands for high definition.
With OLED screens, each pixel of the screen receives an individual current rather than being back-lit. OLED televisions offer the most natural colors, so you don’t see hot spots or pixelation.
Many OLED televisions have a screen that’s curved so you can have a good viewing angle, no matter how you’re looking at the screen.
But with quality comes a price tag. OLED televisions are priced higher than the standard LED, partially because they are a newer technology.
Should You Leave a TV on All the Time?
Most new televisions can be left on all the time without facing damage. The biggest concern with leaving a television running full time is the risk of image burn or image retention.
If you are going to leave your television on all the time, the best thing to do is to be sure there is a continually moving image. Still, images are a danger to plasma, LCD, and LED televisions.
Plasmas can stay on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week without suffering damage. This benefit makes plasmas the ideal choice for displays at airport terminals, hospitals, and offices.
But when plasma screens are stuck on the same image for too long, the phosphor material starts to decompose unevenly. What’s left behind is a ghost image, referred to as an image burn.
Plasmas are also prone to phosphor deterioration. This is when the plasma burns and damages the screen pixels. Over time with the same image, the phosphor only displays the screen’s frozen image, called an image burn.
And after 100,000 hours, plasma screen televisions operate at half-life. Half-life means that the TV loses 50% of its brightness. Screens running at half-life look darker, with diminished contrast and washed-out images.
LCD televisions also have a lifespan of 100,000 hours. Some manufacturers lay claim that their televisions can outlast the 100,000 hours with continuous use. But this is only if you keep your home at a consistent temperature year-round and other criteria.
How long your LCD actually lasts will depend on how long the fluorescent lighting lasts. Over time, these lamps dim, resulting in a darker picture.
LCD televisions can end up with image burn when left on too long, which is usually permanent. The pixels inside the LED screen degrade as they emit light. Frozen images cause the pixels to decay faster. Dead pixels cannot be repaired.
LCD TVs are also prone to image retention or image persistence. These burnt images are when a picture stays on a screen too long and remains there once you’ve changed your screen to a new image.
Image retention can be short-term and only last a few minutes. Or it could become permanent, requiring you to have your screen repaired or replaced. Retention is usually a warning sign that image burn is about to occur.
Regular use doesn’t put you at risk of image burn. But keeping your screen frozen on a single image or channel for hours at a time can result in permanent images.
A common culprit is news stations, which have scrolling tickers and channels with a permanent logo in the corner.
Despite being a newer technology, OLED televisions are also prone to image burn. Avoid leaving your television on the same channel for hours at a time each day. This includes static game logos and news channels. It would help if you also kept your brightness turned low.
LED televisions start to lose back-light brightness over time. After 60,000 hours of use, your LED can lose 20% of its overall brightness. Reducing the brightness of your screen can make your LED TV last up to 100,000 hours.
Despite a better picture, LED and OLED televisions are prone to burn-ins. OLED and QLED are more prone to image retention and burning than liquid crystal screens (LCD).
In most cases, when an LED screen gets image burn, there’s no way to reverse the damage. Like the pixels in an LED display light, they start to decay.
Being stuck on the same image means the pixels holding that image burn faster than what’s not being used. And once a pixel burns out, there’s no way to replace it.
OLED televisions have a life cycle of 100,000 hours. After this time, the pixels inside the television start to decay naturally. When an OLED television starts to lose its brightness, there is a noticeable difference.
With OLED televisions, you may have an image burned into your screen. Unfortunately, this usually means that the pixels that make up the screen are burnt out.
Each time you use your television, the pixels slowly get dimmer. When you keep the pixels displaying the same image for too long, they burn down at an irregular rate.
Even though you switch your screen to a new image, the pixels will retain the ghost image because some are more dead than others.
If you repeatedly leave your television on the same image, you can end up with a permanent image stuck on your screen. This issue is not covered under most warranties, so you’ll be stuck looking at the burned picture or having to pay out of pocket for a new television.
How to Prevent Damaged Televisions
One of the best ways to prevent your television from becoming damaged through constant use is to ensure your screen doesn’t retain the same still image for long periods.
LCD TVs should never be left on a static picture – images with no or little moving elements. You should also avoid images with static elements such as logos, borders, bars, or tickers. Limit exposure to these elements to two hours at a time.
If there are static images on your television that you can’t get rid of, such as channel logos or black borders from having a TV set to 4×3, you can change your picture size periodically so the images can’t stick.
Reducing the contrast and brightness of your television display can also prevent burn-ins from static pictures. Adjust your brightness to match the light in your room or use one of the presets such as dark or medium room, film, or home setting. Keep the contrast set to standard.
Other tips for keeping your television working for the most extended amount of time include where you locate your device. The best place to put your screen is on the wall or a sturdy piece of furniture.
It is recommended that you keep your television away from woodstoves and fireplaces, as the heat and ash can suck into the television, causing it to overheat or burn out.
It would be best if you also didn’t put your TV on or too close to the floor. Dust is also dangerous to your television’s lifespan.
And finally, you should put your television out of the reach of the sun. If you put your television up in front of a window, be sure to use blinds and dark window shades to block the light. The sun’s rays are dangerous to your television’s life cycle.
How to Fix Image Burns
Some damaged television screens can be repaired, but others may not be fixable. It depends on the severity of the damage as to whether it can be fixed.
Here are a few common ways to attempt to reverse damaged television screens.
Reduce Image Burn Chances
Reduce the chances of your screen getting damaged by calibrating your color settings. Televisions that run high contrast and brightness are more prone to screen burns.
Keep your contrast set to the lowest possible setting, so your screen doesn’t experience strain on specific areas of your screen.
For screens that have burned images, sometimes static can help remove the locked image. Turn your television to white static.
Leave your screen set to this for twelve to twenty-four hours. Depending on the severity of your image burn, the black and white random patterns can remove the burned image.
Some television brands equip their devices with a technology called pixel-shift or screen shift. This science gives your screen constant adjustments so the pixels don’t burn. Brands that offer pixel shifts include Samsung and Sony.
With some televisions, you may have to enable this feature. Others may already have it turned on when you purchase the device. Many LED or OLED screens have this feature.
You may also have a television equipped with a screen refresher, such as televisions from brands like LG and Sony.
This is a program initially designed to be used on computer monitors. But it has been adapted to help fix televisions.
You can use a free version, but it’s limited to twenty minutes of use at a time. You may want to purchase the license for $25.
Can Leaving a TV on Start a Fire?
In some cases, televisions have been labeled as causing a fire from leaving them on for too long. But when a television catches on fire, it’s not due to overheating from constant use.
The typical cause is that the television overloads the wiring, which causes an electrical fire. Homes older than twenty years usually have older wiring that can’t handle the heavy electrical currents of new technology such as widescreen televisions.
Your home’s breaker box should trip if your circuit is overloaded. But in older homes with faulty wiring, the breaker box is usually outdated as well. When older circuit boxes become overloaded, they can cause a fire.
Tips to Prevent Fires
Even though the most common cause of television fires is wire shortage, there are risks of your television catching on fire from overheating. Here are a few tips to reduce the chances of your TV catching on fire.
Ensure Proper Air Circulation
All televisions have vents that help release the hot air the machine generates. If this air can’t escape due to blocked vents, it can cause your device to overheat.
To keep your television from overheating, you need to be sure all of the vents are clear and can get plenty of circulation.
If your television is enclosed inside a cabinet or armoire, make sure there’s enough room for air to circulate the television.
Keep your machine away from curtains, drapes, and all other material, which can be sucked against the vents, causing a potential fire hazard.
Protect Your TV With Powerstrips
You should also keep your plugs free of clutter and use GFCI sockets or power strips, which offer protection if your device shorts out. These precautions will kill the power to your device and your home so the fire can’t spread.
Our final safety suggestion to avoid your television catching on fire is to be sure you keep all liquids away from your television, including vases, drinks, and planters.
Many people worry about what can happen if they leave their TV on all the time. Televisions like plasma, LCD, and LED can be left on all the time without damage. However, you do need to be cautious about what the screen displays.
Still images left on a screen can cause image burn. Leaving your television on reduces the lifespan. Each television slowly loses its light source over time. This situation means your television might not last as long as it should.